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How to Cook Turkey

stuffed turkey

The crispy-skinned, deep golden brown turkey is always the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving holiday. There are many ways to enjoy turkey whether it’s slow-cooked, grilled, and even deep-fried, but we are going to go with the traditional roasted method. It’s simple and brings delicious flavors. Here are some tips and techniques to consider when roasting a whole turkey.

What Kitchen Equipment do You Need to Cook a Turkey

  • A large roasting pan with handles to make it easy for you to carry your turkey in and out of the oven
  • A V rack for the roasting pan so that it keeps the turkey above the drippings so that it does not get soggy and allows the turkey to get a crispy skin
  • A baster to suction the drippings from the bottom of the pan and pour over the turkey
  • A thermometer that is oven proof or one of those instant-read thermometers to ensure it cooks to the correct internal temperature for turkey
  • Aluminum foil to make a tent over it and keep it warm while it is resting after roasting
  • A sharp knife and cutting board for carving

How to Prepare the Turkey

  • Thaw the turkey: The best way to thaw turkey safely is in the fridge. It typically takes about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight.
  • Remove the inner giblets which include the neck and internal organs such as the heart, liver, and gizzard. But don’t throw these things away, use these to enrich the flavor of your gravy.
  • There are several ways to season a turkey. You can coat it with a savory and acidic marinade, wet brine it overnight in liquid or dry brine with a dry seasoning mixture.

How to Cook a Turkey

  • Preheat the oven to 325F
  • After you have stuffed the turkey with stuffing or aromatics such as onions, carrots, and herbs, place the turkey breast side down in a large roasting rack
  • Brush the entire backside with melted butter and then turn it over and brush the entire side of the turkey breast with butter. You can even stuff butter and herbs in between the skin for extra flavor and moisture
  • For an unstuffed turkey, it takes about 15 minutes for every lb of turkey.
  • For a turkey that weighs about 12 to 14 lbs, roast the turkey uncovered for about 3 to 4 hours. Afterward, use a brush to baste it with pan drippings every 30 minutes until the turkey is completely cooked

What Temperature Is Turkey Done

Checking the temperature is the best way to check that it is cooked to kill off all the harmful bacteria. The temperature that the turkey should be cooked is 165F. It is recommended to check the turkey’s temperature in several parts. Examples include the thickest part of the turkey breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing. 

How Long to Cook a Stuffed Turkey

Cooking turkey with stuffing will take longer to cook. Here are estimated times to cook stuffed turkey recommended by USDA

Approximate Cooking Times for Stuffed Turkeys at 325F

Turkey Size by weight (lbs)Time in Hours
8 to 12 lbs3 to 3.5 hours
12 to 14 lbs3.5 to 4 hours
14 to 18 lbs4 to 4.25 hours
18 to 20 lbs4.25 to 4.75 hours
20 to 24 lbs4.75 to 5.25 hours

How to Carve a Turkey

  • Start with removing the legs by cutting through the joint with a Chef’s knife (we recommend an 8 to 10-inch knife). Separate the thigh from the drumsticks and cut through the joint as well.
  • Then remove the turkey breast by starting at the top of the bird and slicing along the breast bone on each side. From there separate the wing from the breast
  • Lastly, carefully slice the breast into horizontal slices.
  • Arrange the parts on a platter and garnish with fresh herbs, citrus slices, or fresh cranberries.

How Long Will Turkey Leftovers Keep?

You can keep leftover turkey for up to three to four days when properly stored in the refrigerator or freezer. It is important to ensure that it does not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. 

If you need more Thanksgiving meal ideas, check out our Easy Thanksgiving Recipes.

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Learn to Cook Asparagus

salmon and asparagus

If you’re looking for an easy vegetable side dish, then cooking asparagus can’t get any easier. This vegetable is amazingly versatile and can be prepared in many ways: Asparagus can be cooked on the stove, oven, or on a grill. Grilling, roasting, and stir-frying asparagus are our favorite ways to enjoy it.

Types of Asparagus

  • Asparagus can come in three different colors: green, purple, and white. Green is the most common and available year-round. White asparagus has been covered in mulch to prevent chlorophyll from developing which gives plants their green color. Purple asparagus is purple when raw, however, turns dark green when cooked.
  • Asparagus also comes in different sizes: thin, medium, and thick. Thin is great for quick cooking methods such as sauteing or stirfries. The medium and thicker asparagus are great for roasting or grilling.

How to Buy and Store Asparagus

  • When you are at the grocery store, look for asparagus spears that are brightly colored, compact, and have tips that are tightly closed. Avoid spears that are dried out, brown, or have spears that are ridged.
  • If you are not cooking it right away, you can either wrap them in wet paper towels and cover with a plastic bag before refrigerating, or you can trim the bottoms and keep them standing up in a glass with about an inch of water. We recommend cooking them within 3 days.

Meal Prep Tips for Asparagus:

  • Before you cook, you will want to cut off the tough bottom ends of the asparagus. If you are using white asparagus, you will need to peel them from top to bottom. If you have really thick asparagus, you may also want to peel the lower end of the stalks starting about halfway and peel toward the root.
  • Asparagus also cooks quickly, so be sure to have your seasoning and other ingredients that you will be cooking with it readily available.
prep asparagus

Here are three of our favorite ways to cook asparagus.

Grilling Asparagus (either indoor or outdoor): Warm up the grill or indoor grill on medium-high heat. Coat the asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the asparagus spears on the girl and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes until it gets a good char. Flip them on the other side so that they crisp up all around. Once they are cooked, you can finish them with lemon zest for an extra fragrant flavor or you can drizzle them with a balsamic glaze.

grilled asparagus

Roasting Asparagus: Preheat the oven to 400F and drizzle the asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can also add other spices such as paprika, cayenne, or red pepper flakes. Try adding nuts to roast alongside the asparagus. Spread the asparagus on a baking sheet and roast them for about 10 minutes until they are lightly golden brown and sizzling. After it cooks, top it off with shredded parmesan.

roast asparagus

Stir Fry or Saute Asparagus: Asparagus cooks quickly in a sauteed or stir-fried dish. Cut asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Add oil to a wok or skillet on medium-high heat. Cook the asparagus pieces for about 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned and tender. Throw in some chopped herbs such as green onions, basil, or cilantro. In the end, season with soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil.

stir fry asparagus

What can you eat with asparagus?

  • Asparagus pairs well with many proteins such as a grilled steak, baked salmon, and roasted chicken.
  • You can also serve it alongside your choice of grains such as brown rice pilaf, couscous, pasta, and even quinoa 
  • Asparagus can be a great addition to salad and many other vegetable medleys such as stir fry veggies such as bell peppers or with other roasted veggies such as zucchini.

Here are some recipes that we think you might enjoy:

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How to Make a Meal Plan

Meal Plan Food

What is Meal planning?

Meal planning is a tool that helps you determine what you’re going to eat throughout the week instead of deciding day to day. Planning out your meals in advance helps you ensure that you are going to eat healthy and stay on track. It is a great way to choose foods that will be most helpful with your health. It is also a great way to help you save time and money by planning out what ingredients you need for the week. Just like anything in life, a little preparation goes a long way. 

When it comes to  deciding on a meal plan method, it is important to know what goals you want to achieve.

  • Do you want to lose weight? 
  • Do you want to eat healthier?
  • Do you want to save time or money? 

Knowing your goals will help you narrow down what kind of meals you will need to plan out.

1. Start with deciding how many meals and what meals you plan to cook and when you plan to eat out. 

meal prep containers

Start small and start with specific meals you want to plan out first. Look ahead at the week’s schedule and organize your meals around these days. For example, does Monday need to be a meal for a good sit down dinner, does today need to be something quick and easy right before.  Determine if you want to prepare all your ingredients from scratch or get pre-packaged items

2. Ensure cooking methods vary and consider what equipment you have available

wok and stir fry

Most people miss out on this important step and realize after the fact that they don’t have the appropriate cooking equipment, pots and pans,  or utensils readily available to prepare the food. Knowing what cooking equipment and utensils are available will determine the cooking methods and what ingredients you will need to buy. 

Meal prep tip: If you’re looking for efficiency in the kitchen, it’s important to know how to maximize the kitchen space. For example, you don’t want to cook all recipes that require a lot of attention such as cooking all stove top recipes. You’ll want to maximize the oven and cook what you can in the oven so that your hands are free to do other things while those items bake away.

3. Determine what kinds of food you like to eat and develop themes throughout the week.

meal plan dishes

When starting, stick to familiar foods that you like and your favorite types of meals. Choose different cuisines for different flavors to keep it fun and exciting. For example, you may want to do taco Tuesday, Italian Wednesday, or stir fry Thursday. Also, identify if you have any recipes that you pinned from the internet and use them as a starting point. Find a core set of recipes with capsule ingredients that you like. Be sure to also take stock of what you already have on hand and see if there is already something there you can use. For example, do you have any frozen meats/veggies, or canned beans, pasta sauces, grains, and beans?

4. If you are wanting to ensure you are planning healthy meals, you’ll want to incorporate multiple food groups to provide a variety of nutrients.

meal prep food

 If you are wanting to ensure you are planning healthy meals, it is important to incorporate foods from all major food groups such as carbohydrates, proteins, milk and dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and fats to compose healthy balanced meals. You’ll want to incorporate multiple food groups because it will provide a variety of nutrients.

Start with picking out your choice of proteins and mix them up in a variety such as chicken, lean beef, fish, and meatless options such as legumes.

Then, determine which side dishes will pair well with your proteins and always include a variety of colors. Incorporate a variety of fresh and colorful vegetables and fruits. Always look for seasonal items and nutrient-dense foods such as dark greens, bright red peppers, blueberries/ raspberries. Add complex carbs with high fiber such as whole grains, quinoa, oats to help complete your meals.

Always ensure that half of your plate should be composed of whole fruits/non-starchy vegetables, a quarter should be whole grains/starchy vegetables, and a quarter protein.

When picking your ingredients, plan leftovers and extras. If you have too much of one ingredient, determine how you can split up the amounts and overlap them in different recipes to avoid food waste. For example, you can use roast chicken and broccoli for a sheet pan recipe and also cook chicken and broccoli in a stir fry.  Cook them in a variety of ways to keep it interesting. Also keep in mind if you need to make larger batches for sides such as quinoa for monday and also in your soup for wednesday..

If you will plan meals weekly, prepare staple foods that you can do weekly that you enjoy such as egg muffins, taco meat, roasted chicken, etc.

Keep in mind to also stock up on nutritious snacks such as grab and go fruit, wash and chopped fresh veggie sticks such as celery, carrots, and sliced cucumbers, whole grain crackers, protein choices such as low-fat deli turkey slices, almonds or other nuts and seeds

5. Once you have a plan, pick a day of the week to do your groceries and do the shopping for all ingredients at once. Decide whether to do the shopping yourself in the store, order curbside or receive direct delivery to your house.

vegetables and eggs

Before you go grocery shopping, make a list of all the ingredients you need for your recipes. Be sure to check your pantry and fridge for ingredients that you already have on hands such as canned foods, grains, spices/seasonings, oils and vinegars. Be sure to stock up on grocery staples such as lunch meats, tortillas, tea, salad dressings, etc

 And if you are on a budget, many online grocers and online grocery apps can help you with pricing. You can get an estimate of your total grocery bill before even purchasing. This will help you determine if you need to swap out some ingredients for cheaper ingredients. For example, you may opt out baby kale for arugula if it’s cheaper. Or chicken tenderloins instead of chicken breasts. 

6. Schedule and set aside time to dedicate prep

chopped vegetables

Identify when you will prepare food and what kind of prep you will do. Will you meal prep in advance all in one day or will you prep daily. On prep day, focus first on foods that take the longest such as oven baked proteins, then move on to a quicker recipe while that item is baking. Ensure you have the proper storage containers readily available

If you are new to meal planning, it is good to keep a diary of what you planned, what meals you actually ate and enjoyed, and use that information to adjust for future weeks. Within time, you will learn to know what works well for you.

And if you are looking to incorporate healthier prep options during the week but don’t want to hassle with the meal planning, then check out our pre-set weekly meal plans filled with a variety of recipes, organized grocery lists, and step by step instructions.

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Have fun advancing your culinary skills with our chef-created recipes with our weekly meal planning services.